Frequently Asked Questions about NeoLucida

Have questions? We’ve got some answers! Click to expand questions below.

+ Where can I buy the NeoLucida or NeoLucida XL?

The NeoLucida and NeoLucida XL area available from our authorized retailer Big Idea Design. Global shipping is free! Click here to buy.

+ Do you sell wholesale?

We are not currently seeking additional retail partnerships. The direct-sales economy made possible by the Internet allows us to reach interested people directly, eliminating the costs of middlemen and providing a lower cost to our customers. When we do work with retailers, they are aligned very closely with our artistic mission, interests and educational philosophy. If you still have queries, contact us.

+ I’m not satisfied. Will you refund my device?

We do not offer refunds for NeoLucidas sold through our Kickstarter campaigns. For other units, such as those sold through one of our commercial retail partners, please contact your vendor. That said: we are convinced that the optics, ease-of-use, and performance of the NeoLucida are identical to or better than the classic camera lucidas manufactured and widely used for more than a century, from the 1830’s through the 1930’s. We have discovered that nearly all of the people who are disappointed in the NeoLucida are simply not using the device correctly. There is a ‘trick’ to using it, and even some very smart people, who think that they have read the instructions, have a hard time learning the trick. We would love to help troubleshoot your problem. If you can describe the difficulty you’re having, we can help; contact us!

+ I saw a NeoLucida on eBay for $XXX. What’s up with that?

Some unscrupulous people purchase NeoLucidas from us at retail price, and then, trading on its “scarcity”, resell them on eBay at a considerable markup. Don’t be the sucker these guys are waiting for; click here to buy from our authorized retailer.

+ Does the NeoLucida work for lefties?

Yes! The eyepiece is reversible, so you can either clamp the NeoLucida to the left or right of your paper to leave room for your drawing hand. Out of the box, it is set up for clamping on the left for right-handed use. To switch the handedness of your NeoLucida, follow the instructions provided.

+ Should I close one eye when using the NeoLucida?

We recommend you begin with one eye closed to concentrate on the ghost image. Some users report it’s easier with two eyes open, but it could be distracting for most first-time users.

+ Does it matter which eye I use with the NeoLucida?

No, but most people have a “dominant eye.” You may instinctively use your dominant eye, but to make sure, you can do this little test to determine your eye dominance (from ScienceMadeSimple): Make a circle with your thumb and first finger. With both eyes open look at an object on the wall or in the distance, and center it inside the circle. Now close one eye, and then the other. When you closed your left or right eye you should have found that the object jumps outside the circle. If the object seemed to move when you closed your left eye, then you have left eye dominance. If the object moved more when your right eye was closed, then your right eye is the dominant one.

+ I wear glasses. Will the NeoLucida work for me?

Probably yes, but it depends. You will have to get your eye very close to the prism, so you’ll need to take care not to scratch your glasses on the prism shield. If you’re feeling crafty, you can install a lens from a spare pair of glasses to create a “prescription NeoLucida”, as we explain here. (We both wear glasses, so that’s what we did.) But, if you do happen to have contact lenses, you may have the best luck with the NeoLucida if you’re able to switch to them.

+ I only have vision in one eye. Will the NeoLucida work for me?

The NeoLucida may be even easier for you. The prism is effective in helping you draw because it flattens the 3D world onto your page for easy tracing. With only one eye looking through the prism, the scene is flat and ready for drawing.

+ How large a drawing can I make?

Let’s be clear: the NeoLucida, like all camera lucidas, is a tool for making small drawings. Take a look at the portrait below by the great master, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. It’s freakishly small—the entire page is only 9¼ × 7¼ inches (23 × 18 cm). In fact, the drawing’s small size is a direct consequence of the inherent nature of camera lucida optics. If you want to make truly large drawings, consider a different optical tool, such as an epidiascope (opaque projector).

J.A.D. Ingres, Portrait of Guillaume Guillon-Lethière (1815), pencil on wove paper, 11 x 8.75 inches (280 x 221 mm), collection Morgan Library.

When you clamp the NeoLucida to a table, you can easily achieve drawings that fit on a US Letter/A4 size drawing. The higher the prism’s distance from your page, the larger will be the ghost image you can trace. To extend beyond the device’s own gooseneck length, we recommend you clamp your NeoLucida to a shelf, or tripod, or other elevated area. In practice, the only height limit is the length of your arm and the length of your pencil. We believe the longest practical distance will allow you to produce drawings for Tabloid/A3 size paper. But if you can master using a pencil at the end of a long pole, you could get even larger.

+ It’s hard to see my pencil; the subject is too bright. How can I fix that?

Light balance is important. There should be equal lighting on your subject and your paper. If your setup has a lighting imbalance, try the following:

  • If your scene is too bright, use a small light to illuminate your paper.
  • If your page is too bright, shade the paper from the bright lightsource.
  • If your page is too bright, draw on darkened paper (brown or grey).
  • While using the NeoLucida XL, consider using the shaded filter provided.

+ My eyes are strained from using the NeoLucida. Am I doing something wrong?

Not necessarily. New users can become fatigued from prolonged drawing with the NeoLucida. Since the prism splits your vision between your paper and your subject, your eye is trying to focus on two different distances at the same time. This can result in eye fatigue, especially if your prism is close to the page but your subject is far away. With time and practice, your eye will become more conditioned to the setup.

+ How close/far away can my subject be?

Out of the box, the NeoLucida is good for subjects from 3ft (1m) to infinity. You can add magnifying or close-up lenses to draw small subjects or close details.

+ Why does my drawing appear squished while using the prism NeoLucida?

The NeoLucida prism is quite crisp and distortion-free — but, as with any prism, looking at a subject which is too close and below the intended viewing axis will cause distortions. If you notice your drawing is “squished” or compressed in the vertical axis, your subject is too close and/or too low. Elevate your subject to be in line with the prism, and/or move it farther away. We recommend 3ft (1m) as a practical minimum distance.

+ Can I use it outside?

Absolutely. Make sure you have a solid table or drawing easel or tripod setup to keep your setup stable and movement free.

+ Why is the NeoLucida prism so small?

The NeoLucida prism copies the exact dimensions and design of antique Berville prisms, which were used for nearly a century in “classic” camera lucidas. These prisms are small, just a few millimeters on a side. So it’s reasonable to ask: wouldn’t a larger prism have been better? Well, a larger viewing element does give a wider field of view—but it does so at the expense of precision. As surprising as it may seem, the small size of the NeoLucida’s Berville prism offers users a superior experience because it eliminates parallax and therefore allows for precise alignment for copying. In short, the small size of the NeoLucida’s Berville prism is crucial to maintaining the registration of your drawing, because any slight movement of your head would cause your subject’s virtual image to shift. For more information about this, please see the discussion here.